A City Upon A Homo Hill

Religion and Korean Male Homosexuality

Compared to the Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council in the United States, South Korean organizations remained low-key, if not largely silent during this period of AIDS terror. As observed in major newspapers, organized religious backlash against male homosexuality in South Korea did not have any noticeable influence neither on society nor media. While the Korean press did publish a few opinions on homosexuality and Christianity in 1985, 1987, and 1988, they were but individual contributions. For instance, a Korean woman living in the United States posed to the conservative paper Dong-A Ilbo in mid-1985, “is [AIDS] not a divine punishment from God for our abusing our sex[ual organs] given to us by God?”A Korean Wife in The U.S., “AIDS Terror,” Dong-A Ilbo, October 29, 1985, sec. Opinion, 11.

The opinion claimed that the gei are a foreign phenomenon and that they are “unimaginable to our indigenous notions.”Ibid.

It summarily rejected the history of male homosexuality in South Korea, such as the namsadang, a part of an ostensibly “indigenous” culture.Lee, “Rainbow Research 254,” 4.

It also argued that “while unfortunate, it seems good that the terror regarding AIDS will break the gei’s spirits… in the future.”A Korean Wife in The U.S., “AIDS Terror,” 11.

The premise of these declarations seems to be that (1) heterosexual Koreans would be unable to contract AIDS, and (2) God’s will was to smite these people specifically. By implying that the gei were non-Korean, the article accused foreigners for spreading homosexuality to South Korea. The article also fixated on the action of sodomy, rather than the attration to the opposite gender. In other words, the author implied that as long as the gei took resolve not to “abus[e] their sex[ual] organs given to [them] by God,” the propagation of AIDS would come to a standstill.

Once the gei had faded from the media’s view in early 1987, religious opinions published in 1987 and 1988 continued to support the theory of AIDS as a divine punishment for homos’ activity, not homosexual identity. Sentiments justifying the very existence of AIDS as a “divine punishment for… sexually immoral conduct” even appeared in the pages of the nation’s most liberal newspaper at the time, Kyunghyang Shinmun.“Assaulted by the AIDS Terror,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, February 14, 1987, sec. Editorial, 2.

At the same time, Korean newspapers published articles stating that “homo activities cannot be viewed entirely as a bad thing… for their [state] is due to their homosexual disposition at birth, and the rest [of their disposition] has been due to their environment.”Ha-un Seong, “Will AIDS Bring Mankind’s Extinction (2): Warning From Destroying Sexual Morality,” Dong-A Ilbo, March 18, 1987, sec. Society, serial, 9.

It implied that the current society had allowed for such development, so the very society that brought such individuals cannot solely blame the homo for their actions. Meanwhile, it also suggested that “homo activities go against the natural providence of reproduction… and to go against it… eventually destroys oneself.”Ibid.

While society may have allowed for homos to develop, the author suggested that homos had the volition to partake in homosexual actions or not.

On the other hand, these opinions also admitted that the homo population was not entirely to blame for the onslaught of AIDS. They claimed that South Korean society as a whole had “become sexually and morally depraved” and therefore this “incurable disease [was] divine retribution” for both the homo and the “normal” society.“AIDS, The Flames Beneath Our Feet,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, February 23, 1988, sec. Society, 2.

While the article did not specify exactly how Korean society had become “sexually and morally depraved,” the change likely hinted at oral sex and the like, which seemed “shocking… and strange act to a traditionally Confucian society” even in 1984.Kwak, “Kwak Dae-hui Health Column #13: Expansion of Sexual Diseases’ Territory,” 9.

Seemingly apocryphal, the whole society were to atone for their depravity and recover their sexual morality lest God “bring mankind’s extinction.”Seong, “Will AIDS Bring Mankind’s Extinction (2): Warning From Destroying Sexual Morality,” 9.

In this sense, the visible religious opinions in South Korean media depicted themselves as co-conspirators with homos in invoking God’s wrath. They were both repentant for allowing society to fall into such disrepair and indignant against the homos for being the prime examples of depraved actions.